Published: December 24, 2018
Review by W.A. Demers
PHILADELPHIA – Material Culture regularly presents auctions of Oriental carpets, and the firm’s sale on December 17 provided a window into the allure of this category that sometimes gets short shrift. Oriental carpets and textiles, collectively seem to be the Rodney Dangerfields of the antiques world in that they “get no respect.” Usually they are mentioned as a coda in general estate antiques sale marketing as “rounding out the sale,” but George Jevremovic, founder and principal at Material Culture, dedicates about one sale a month to the category and says he aims to stage four to six high-value, curated rug sales a year. “There’s a pretty strong demand for rugs out there – and it definitely helps if they’re easily and affordably shippable – unlike antique furniture,” he said. “There’s a certain convenience factor in it, and we’re also able to post lots of photographs and respond to condition report requests.”
Lower-priced inventory that typically comes out of estates or liquidation situations is channeled into no reserve auctions because the priority is to sell everything. The firm’s December 17 sale, however, was geared to more high-end, decorative and collectible rugs. “It’s an area that we want to start promoting more,” said Jevremovic, who added that he felt “pretty good” about the results from this most recent auction. “Prices were fair to good to very good in some cases. The market has shifted somewhat in the past 20 years and frequently – though not always – 70 to 80 percent of the rugs that are auctioned these days are below the prices of 20 to 30 years ago.”
In the most recent sale, the highest price was attained for a Western Anatolia (Turkish) Oushak rug, which sold for $37,500. What made the 16-foot-11-inch-by-17-foot-10-inch textile desirable? “What was great about that rug was that it’s late Nineteenth Century, it was pretty much full pile, and condition was extremely good,” explained Jevremovic. “The colors are exactly what people are looking for – teal, pistachio and pale orange – and in a size that’s extremely hard to come by, about 17 by 18 feet.” Oushaks, Serapis and Bakshaish rugs are among the room-size, decorative carpets that attract people, and these include Nineteenth Century Oushaks that were produced in western Turkey for the European and American markets. “They’re coarsely knotted,” said Jevremovic, a factor that was 180 degrees from another top-selling carpet in the sale, a mansion-size Hadji Jalili Tabriz rug from Persia, circa 1900, which realized $31,250. “The knot count between these two rugs couldn’t be more different, with the Hadjii Jalili Tabriz some five to seven more times more finely knotted. But people are not buying these rugs based on knot count; they’re buying them for certain intrinsic qualities related to the tradition,” said Jevremovic. “The other thing about the Tabriz was that it was in amazing condition for its age. When you get a rug that large – nearly 18 by 28 feet – you’ve got to figure that people have done some serious walking on it for generations, and to find one in this condition, that carries a premium.”
Condition, too, played a big role in the Persian Bakshaish that fetched $20,000. The 11-foot-5-inch-by-17-foot-3-inch example came out a Philadelphia Main Line estate
Material Culture has more than three decades of experience in the fields of art, decorative arts, antiques and collectibles from around the world. It differentiates itself by claiming to “bring a discerning eye and a careful hand to the marketing and selling” of one’s property at public auction. The sales, whether general estate, single-owner or themed, are well advertised and cover an eclectic array of material, periods, styles and prices.
Material Culture has spacious auction and exhibition areas, some 15,000 square feet of naturally lit space housed under the same roof as the firm’s 30,000-plus-square-foot retail store and event space. That kind of elbow room comes in handy for exhibitions of its rug sales, and typically the three-day presale exhibitions are better attended than the sales themselves. For this most recent sale, “we had a lot of people coming in three days before the sale, and then they did phone bidding,” according to Jevremovic. “We had a lot of phone and online bidders, I would say about 70 percent of the rugs were sold online, some over the phone and a few by people in the audience.”
Prices given include the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house.
Material Culture is planning its next high-end Oriental rug auction for March. For additional information, 215-849-8030 or www.materialculture.com.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
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